March 31, 2020

Duckworth Hosts Telephone Town Hall on COVID-19


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] —U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today hosted a telephone town hall reaching roughly 50,000 Illinoisans to provide updates on the COVID-19 pandemic. On the call, Duckworth answered questions about a number of issues including how the new stimulus law affects Illinoisans and the precautions every Illinoisan should be taking to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Duckworth was joined at the teletown hall by University of Chicago Medicine Executive Medical Director Dr. Emily Landon.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily changed life as we know it in Illinois, across the country and around the world,” Duckworth said. “The awful reality is that here in the U.S., COVID-19 isn’t tomorrow’s nightmare. It’s our reality today. I’m proud that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle came together to help Americans with a $2 trillion stimulus compromise that marks an important turning point in our nation’s fight against a public health and economic crisis on a scale few have ever seen before. I know that our work is not finished, and I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss what we need to do today and what the path forward looks like with so many Illinoisans during today’s teletown hall.”

Since the COVID-19 public health crisis began, Senator Duckworth has led with a wide range of actions to support middle-class working Americans and help our nation better respond to the pandemic, including supporting the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that’s now law, refocusing the Trump Administration’s efforts on testing and access to tests. She also voted for the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which makes important progress to help Americans address and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. While not perfect, the bipartisan compromise does put workers—not corporations—first by putting cash directly in the pockets of consumers, greatly expanding emergency unemployment insurance and providing immediate relief for small businesses. The CARES Act also includes transparent oversight of bailed-out corporations and additional resources for state and local governments—as well as our hospitals and health centers—that are all on the front lines of this crisis.

Duckworth was one of the first Senators to urge the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to immediately establish clear diagnostic testing procedures, capabilities and production capacity to better mitigate the spread of COVID-19. After calling on the President to swiftly take action under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to boost production of live-saving ventilators and other equipment needed to limit the spread of COVID-19, Duckworth helped introduce new legislation to require him to do so to help save lives. She also introduced the COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act to help keep frontline healthcare workers safe, cosponsored the Free COVID-19 Testing Act to expand access to free tests helped introduce the comprehensive COVID-19 RELIEF for Small Businesses Act of 2020 to support small businesses across the country and give them the resources they need to weather this crisis and she helped introduce legislation that was signed into law to make sure student Veterans and their loved ones receiving benefits through the GI Bill don’t lose them as universities move online. Duckworth also joined her colleagues on the PAID (Providing Americans Insured Days) Leave Act to ensure workers can take time off when ill and helped introduce the Small Business Debt Relief Act of 2020 to support small businesses affected by the pandemic by relieving certain federal loan payments.

After hundreds of passengers were forced into close quarters for hours to clear federal medical screenings at customs at O’Hare International Airport, Duckworth joined U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) in demanding additional federal resources. She called on Donald Trump to do more to bring back Illinoisans and other Americans stranded abroad as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also called on U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work together to ensure civilian healthcare workers are well-trained to use military-issued respirator masks and other personal protective equipment that DOD has made available to civilian healthcare providers. Duckworth spoke out about Republican attempts to deny funding to healthcare providers that receive Medicaid, thereby making it harder for vulnerable groups—including people with disabilities, older Americans and survivors of rape and abuse—to access critical services they rely on, like home care assistance or meal delivery programs. Along with Senator Durbin, she sent a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) calling on the agency to grant the State of Illinois flexibility to expand access to health services and have the flexibility to deliver quality care amid this public health crisis, which CMS ultimately granted. Duckworth joined a bipartisan group of Senators urging the Trump Administration expand access to telehealth services to rural communities and she pressed the CDC for information on a potential shortage of enzymes needed for CDC coronavirus test kits. The Senator also called on Donald Trump to transition National Guard troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to Title 32 status and asked that the Federal Government cover 100 percent of the costs of such activations. Yesterday, the Trump administration announced that the National Guard forces responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in Illinois would be transitioned to Title 32 status and that the Federal Government would cover 100 percent of the cost of these support operations in Illinois.